James Tracy, a communication professor at Florida Atlantic University who writes about conspiracies is raising eyebrows by suggesting that the Newtown killings did not take place as reported, and that the Obama administration and others may be shaping the way the massacre has been portrayed in the press, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The newspaper reported that in one blog post, he wrote, "While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place — at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described." The university has distanced itself from Tracy, telling the Sun-Sentinel that "James Tracy does not speak for the university. The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Gallaudet University has reinstated Angela McCaskill, the institution's chief diversity officer, who was suspended for signing a petition against the recognition of gay marriage by Maryland, the Associated Press reported. The university announced the reinstatement, but did not elaborate or respond to requests for comment. Some advocates for gay rights applauded the suspension, saying that universities cannot promote equity for gay students and employees while having their diversity efforts led by people who believe that gay people should be denied rights available to straight people. But critics said that the university was inappropriately punishing McCaskill for expressing political views.
In a major victory for California public higher education, voters in November approved a plan by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, to raise some taxes for seven years. Brown and others campaigned for the tax increase by saying that it would allow the public universities to avoid tuition increases. Republicans have now responded by proposing legislation that would freeze tuition for seven years, the duration of the tax increases, The Los Angeles Times reported. While unlikely to pass, the proposal is seen as a way to shape the debate over spending priorities in the state, the newspaper said.
ITT Educational Services, a for-profit college chain specializing in technical programs, last week announced that it had agreed to a $46 million settlement payment to Sallie Mae, according to a corporate filing. The settlement was related to a lawsuit filed by the lending giant, Reuters reported, which argued that ITT had breached a shared loan risk agreement. The company did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Catholic University of America will today announce the creation of a new School of Business and Economics that will aim to infuse the university's religious values into the business curriculum, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Roman Catholic ideas of natural law will play a key role in the undergraduate ethics course, the introductory business course will focus on the social impact of commerce, and the accounting will focus on the ethics involved. "Business is supposed to be a service to society," said Andrew Abela, chair of the business and economics program, which is being elevated to a school.
Legislation proposed in Wyoming would expand the board of the University of Wyoming from 12 to 14, allowing the additional two board members to come from outside the state, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. Proponents say that there are loyal supporters of the university who no longer reside in the state, but who could provide expertise to the board. One reason for the possible change: A majority of the university's graduates end up living outside the state.
Bev Kearney has resigned as women's track and field coach at the University of Texas at Austin following an investigation into what she called a “consensual intimate relationship” with "an adult student-athlete." The Austin American-Statesman reported. The relationship took place in 2002, but was only recently reported to the university. In an interview with the Austin newspaper, Kearney said that she "displayed poor judgment," but questioned the way the university has investigated what happened. Her lawyer told the newspaper: "We believe that Ms. Kearney has been subjected to a double standard and has received far harsher punishment than that being given to her male counter-parts who have engaged in similar conduct."
Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at UT, told the American-Statesman, “In the case of a head coach and a student-athlete on his or her team, the university’s position is that that cannot be condoned in any event. ‘It can’t happen’ is what the university’s position is on that.”
Since 1993, Kearney's teams at Texas have won six national championships.
In a white paper released today, the Institute for Higher Education Policy calls for several changes to the financial aid system, part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, which gave grants to organizations to recommend what changes they would make to federal financial aid. The institute calls for making the Pell Grant an entitlement and keeping it at the center of need-based student aid programs, but making larger changes to other student aid programs. Among its suggestions: reforming the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant to provide "emergency" financial aid to students; rewarding completion, including a form of loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients who complete college on time; tying campus-based aid to student debt repayment levels; matching college savings for low-income households and encouraging employers to match employees' student loan repayments for the first five years after graduation.
Several more papers in the Gates effort are expected from other organizations and advocacy groups in the coming weeks.
The financial payoff of earning an M.B.A. appears to be shrinking. The Wall Street Journal reported that for M.B.A. graduates with up to three years of experience, median pay was $53,900 in 2012, down 4.6 percent from 2007-8. Average salaries dropped for graduates of at 62 percent of the 186 business schools examined in an analysis by the Journal and PayScale.com.